By Nancy I. Maanao
Imperial Pacific International Holdings (IPIH) has left its once-mighty casino child - IPI (CNMI), LLC - to fend for itself, according to a declaration by IPI (CNMI)'s CEO Donald Browne in federal court today.
Mr. Browne provided the declaration to support the Saipan casino's pleading before U.S. District Court of the Northern Mariana Islands Chief Judge Ramona Manglona not to personally fine him or send him to jail.
Ms. Manglona Wednesday threatened to throw Mr. Browne and IPI's directors and executives in jail for failing to pay more than $92,000 in fines by October 24, 2020. The judge, in a tersely written order, directed IPI to show cause in writing by today why she should not hold Mr. Browne and others, including IPI chairwoman Ciu Li Jie, in contempt and fine them personally on a daily basis.
Today, IPI CNMI's attorneys explained some eye-opening points that bring to the public light a casino operation that is in shambles, is clearly in violation of the provisions of the Casino License Agreement, and has all but been forsaken by its parent company, IPIH.
"IPI currently has no funds in the bank," Mr. Brown declared to the court. In response to the order to show cause, IPI's attorneys described the pitiful state of the CNMI casino's finances, telling Ms. Manglona the company was able to pay the fine today by borrowing money from one of its Chinese casino players.
The company also explained how the Torres administration came to IPI's rescue, allowing the company to sell assets despite an existing lien on the company's properties.
IPI (CNMI) needed the local rescue, because according to Mr. Browne, his parent company was nowhere to be found.
"I have repeatedly requested that IPIH pay the sanctions. I have repeatedly told them the deadline we were under. I was told not to worry. I took this to mean IPIH would send the money for the sanctions in time. They never did." - Donald Browne's declaration to Judge Manglona
The company's attorneys explained this in the separate response to Ms. Manglona's order to show cause:
"IPI believed its parent company would send the money to pay the Sanction on time. Browne Declaration. IPI’s parent company did not send money. IPI was forced to come up with the payment from a third party."
Mr. Browne and the remaining employees of IPI (CNMI) have been unpaid and out of work with the casino for months now, according to the declarations in court today. They should ask the Torres family, and the scores of government officials who made millions of dollars as vendors of the casino in its hay day, for loans or charity. According to records and reports, the casino was grossing billions of dollars a month less than five years ago. Within that period, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of land transactions that essentially sold huge chunks of Saipan to foreigners through long-term leases, and millions in vendor services were paid to the benefit of CNMI politicians and businessmen.
"IPI has been experiencing financial difficulty since late 2019. On March 17, 2020, IPI closed the casino. In April 2020, IPI had to furlough about 545 employees. I was furloughed myself in April 2020. My employment did not resume until I was hired as the CEO on July 17, 2020. I took a 30% pay cut when I became CEO. The company is not able to pay its employees or to sustain operations. All employees including myself have not been paid since September 25, 2020."
You can view both documents below: